Larry Washington began answering some important questions yesterday, and it was hours before the news conference.
He wasn't badly out of shape, though losing 15 pounds wouldn't hurt. He was just a little rusty from a nearly two-year layoff. It still takes more than one tackler to bring him down. And he wasn't going to be overshadowed by a record-setting tailback.
Washington made a smashing debut at Towson State, rushing for 182 yards on 22 carries and scoring three touchdowns in the Tigers' 34-3 victory over Butler before 1,437 at Minnegan Stadium.
The Randallstown High graduate went over 100 yards with more than four minutes left in the second quarter. By then, the Tigers were leading 28-3, and their first game as a nonscholarship football team already was a rousing success.
"I was kind of nervous at first, but once I got started, it was all right," said Washington, who scored on 1-, 3- and 22-yard runs in the first quarter, but also fumbled three times overall, losing two.
Washington, who transferred from Maryland this summer, said he wasn't surprised to be so involved in the offense. "This is a young team. They said they were going to get me the ball, and I was ready to carry it."
If not for three turnovers by Towson, the first half would have been suitable for framing.
Washington bulled over tacklers or ran through gaping holes in the middle of the line.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Ryan Waltz (3-for-9, 31 yards, one touchdown) showed poise and some terrific downfield moves when his protection broke down, rushing for 62 yards.
Another redshirt freshman, defensive end Eric Erhardt, had three sacks. Sophomore Amandeep Singh blocked a punt on Butler's opening possession, and junior Brad Friedman blocked a field goal to close the half.
Just as important, the Tigers didn't crumble under the weight of Butler's Arnold Mickens, who led the country in rushing last year with 2,255 yards on 409 attempts, and broke or tied 18 NCAA Division I-AA records. He gained instant celebrity last season, but gained his yardage in small chunks yesterday against a young Towson defense.
Mickens was thrown for a loss by sophomore Khalid McLeod on his first carry. That set the tone. He had 67 yards at halftime, with 33 coming on two carries. He finished with 138 on 29 carries and fumbled once.
Last week, he had 43 carries for 233 yards in a 17-7, season-opening victory over Howard Payne. It was the ninth time in 10 games that he had gone over 200 yards.
"The defense played extremely well," said Tigers coach Gordy ++ Combs. "There were a lot of new faces, a lot of guys who never started."
Towson's only points in the second half came when junior Maurice Sydnor returned the kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown. That tied David Meggett's school career record of two kickoff returns for scores.
The Tigers out-gained Butler, 382 yards to 239 (they had a 254-80 edge at halftime). Ten of those yards came on a touchdown pass from Waltz to Amadi Eze in the second quarter.
"I was really nervous last night," Waltz said. "I thought it would be so much harder than it was."
NEXT FOR TOWSON
Site: Welcome Stadium, Dayton, Ohio
When: Saturday, 1 p.m.
Yesterday: Beat San Diego, 30-3.